I Tried It

Need a Designated Space to Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety? Center City’s Got One

The Stress Less Space offers a room where you can meditate, read, nap, or do whatever else you want to calm yourself down.


stress less space

The Stress Less Space includes everything from candy to oracle cards to help you reduce your anxiety. / Photograph by Mary Clare Fischer

I was having a bad day. A Sisyphean day, if you will, where you spend all day rolling the rock up to the top of the mountain only to have it crash back down and shatter your leg in the process. I was in literal pain (thanks, never-ending back injury), and taking a Lyft downtown to check out the new Stress Less Space didn’t seem like a good use of my time, considering sitting and driving both make me writhe in agony.

But also, if there’s one thing I need to do, it’s stress less.

And stress management coach Carlee Myers’ new space intrigued me. Have you ever encountered a place whose only purpose is to reduce your anxiety? Few of us have dedicated square footage for that — and that’s a huge part of our burnout problem. We have rooms for eating, sleeping, uh, relieving ourselves but not calming down. A living room is probably the closest we get to a designated area for relaxation. But it’s generally considered a place for groups to decompress, where a family or roommates can chat, snack, or binge watch Gilmore Girls together. Which is great, but it’s not just for YOU.

And the Stress Less Space is. Buried on the fifth floor of a Center City office building, the series of two rooms smells of fruity candles. A white noise machine in the corner plays crashing waves. When I come in, Myers offers me tea — her favorite of the selection is a raspberry, but I go with the strawberry pomegranate — and has me fill out a short form about why I’m there and what I want to accomplish in my 50 minutes of stress-less time.

We then go into the second room, which looks like it could star in a Real Simple spread if Real Simple rooms had slightly more stuff in them. There’s a navy sofa with lots of pillows, two button-tufted chairs, side tables with lamps, a small chest of drawers, a desk, plants, self-help books, a bowl of candy, oracle cards, an iPad with a Calm app. It’s all designed to help you help yourself, in whatever way you need.

On the form, suggestions for ways to use the space included meditation, taking a nap, reading, and calling a loved one. I decide to meditate, and Myers closes the door and leaves me alone to do my best. I start with the Headspace app on my phone, but it’s not working for me today, so I use the provided Calm app, which I’ve never tried before. There’s not someone guiding you, like on Headspace, so I’m skeptical that I’ll be able to meditate, especially given neither the couch nor the chairs is as comfortable as I’d like them to be. (Do with this what you will, as my back pain makes me uncomfortable no matter where I’m perching these days.)

Yet the sounds of chirping birds and rippling water do, in fact, calm me. I’m able to process what’s happened to me and how to cope without my anxiety ramping up like it typically does. Thirty minutes (I’d asked Myers to provide some guidance, and that took up 15 minutes at the beginning) passes both quickly and at the right speed.

With my five remaining minutes, I look around and try to determine which elements have helped me reach this less-stressed state. The quiet certainly helps; my Fishtown row house is usually brimming with the noise of my two roommates and their friends/family/partners, and it’s so close to the house next door that we can hear our neighbors tromping up the stairs — and the clanging of construction cranes close by.

However, I think it’s something about the clean, orderly state of the room, too. Although it holds plenty of furniture and knick-knacks, all of these features serve a purpose and aren’t scattered about. There might be something to that scientifically; studies have found that clutter can make concentration difficult and “women who described their living spaces as ‘cluttered’ or full of ‘unfinished projects’ were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as ‘restful’ and ‘restorative,’” according to Psychology Today.

I ask Myers about how she became a stress management coach and why she wanted to create this space. She explained that she’d experienced a childhood trauma and needed to figure out how to cope with stress early on. Once she saw so many other women struggling to do so, she knew she needed to pass on her knowledge. “I wanted to give them permission to try something different,” she says.

Although the first session at the Stress Less Space is free, you will have to fork over $197 a month — if you sign up before the end of June, you get $50 off your first month — for a total of three, 50-minute sessions per 30 days. There are some additional perks: online trainings to help you figure out how to make “loving gestures” toward yourself, access to an online forum where you can communicate with other members, the space’s library, and, of course, that body-warming tea.

Despite all of this, the price seems a bit excessive, especially since the Stress Less Space is only open Tuesdays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Fridays from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fitness memberships at boutique studios, for instance, regularly cost less, and those prices include unlimited access to a ton classes versus three sessions a month on very specific days/times. Therapy might be a better comparison since it deals more with your mental health than your physical health and takes place in a designated space where you get to focus on your own self-care. And it can also be quite expensive. Counseling still feels different to me, though, because you’re guided by a trained professional the entire time. You could feasibly do exactly what Myers is doing in your own home.

But, hey, I started this piece by saying that few of us actually devote that time/money/room to creating a space where we can declutter our brains. So, if you have the disposable income, I’d say sign up. Because it’s difficult, I’ve learned, to put a price on sanity.

The Stress Less Space is located at 1601 Walnut Street, Suite 512, in the Medical Arts Building.

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